Summary: Two ways of life. Two very different masters. Two pathways: one leading to death, and one leading to life. Two very different paydays.
TWO KINDS OF SERVITUDE
What we are, and whose we are, shapes what we do with what we've got. Negatively, the Apostle Paul encourages us to resist any attempt that sin makes to usurp authority in our physical lives (Romans 6:12).
Even for Christians, the body and its faculties are still vulnerable to the attacks of Satan: but positively Paul exhorts us to yield ourselves to God and to offer our members in His service, exactly because we are “those that are alive from the dead” (Romans 6:13).
Sin has no more dominion over us for whom Christ paid the wages of sin (Romans 6:14).
Yet this does not give us a licence to sin. The Apostle anticipates an interlocuter who might argue: ‘Since we are not under the law but under grace, let’s keep on sinning.’ This elicited an emphatic negation from Paul, the dynamic of which is caught in various translations: “God forbid!” “Certainly not!” “By no means!” “What a ghastly thought!” “No way!!!’ (Romans 6:15).
The Apostle next uses an illustration from the Roman world - one that does not sit too well with our ‘politically correct’ sensibilities these days, but which would have been familiar enough to his earliest readers. Whatever we yield ourselves to, he argues, we end up ENSLAVED to: whether to “sin” which leads to death; or to “obedience” which leads to righteousness. It is interesting that Paul contrasts “sin” with the “obedience” which comes from faith, and “death” with the covenant “righteousness” which we have in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:16).
The Apostle gives thanks to God, that those who had been slaves to sin have now wholeheartedly obeyed the “form of teaching” to which they had been entrusted. Surprisingly, it is not that it was entrusted to them, but that they were entrusted to it (Romans 6:17).
Upon conversion Christians, “having been set free” from sin, “became bondmen” to righteousness (Romans 6:18).
Paul apologises for thus speaking in such stark human terms: but it is “because of the weakness of your flesh,” he argues. Just as, before, iniquity led to ever-worsening iniquity: so now, as we yield our whole selves to righteousness, the result is an ever-increasing conformity to the likeness of Christ: the process we call sanctification, leading to holiness (Romans 6:19).
Paul will not give up on his slave metaphor. When we were slaves of sin, he says, we were free from righteousness (Romans 6:20).
It makes us blush to remember such times: and had we continued that course, the end would have been death (Romans 6:21).
Now, as bondmen to God we have the fruit of holiness in this life, and eternal life hereafter (Romans 6:22).
In this passage so far, we have seen two ways of life: two servitudes. We have seen two very different masters. We have seen two different pathways: one leading to death, and one leading to life.
All this leads up to two very different paydays. One pays a wage, and that wage is death. The other does not presume that we can earn anything, and pays us the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
‘Choose you this day whom you will serve…’ (cf. Joshua 24:15).